Mountain photography is very popular these days, and for good reason. Mountains are dramatic subjects that can challenge even the most seasoned photographer.
Learning how to capture their essence and make them come alive in your photographs is an art in itself.
In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the technical aspects of mountain photography and explore how you can use them to your advantage.
Ideal Mountain Photography Weather
NIKON D5300 – Focal Length 70mm – Aperture ƒ/3.2 – Shutter Speed 1/500s – ISO 200
Most mountain photographers I know like to shoot in the spring and fall. Why? Simply because those are the seasons when the weather is most likely to cooperate.
+ In the summer and winter, the weather is far more unpredictable. You never know when the clouds will part and allow glorious sunlight to stream through, or when a sudden storm will drench you with cold, heavy rain.
+ In the spring and fall, you have a better chance of getting clear, sunny days, and those are the two best times to go explore a mountain range.
Generally, mountain weather is unpredictable and changeable. It is important to understand what kind of conditions you should seek out when you go on a mountain shoot.
If you are going to be shooting in the morning or evening, you want the light to be coming from the west or east. This will soften the shadows and cast nice, even lighting on your subject. If you are going to be shooting during the day, the best time is just before sunset or after sunrise. This will create a nice, warm, golden light that will add a beautiful glow to your subjects.
Mountain weather can change very quickly so you need to dress appropriately. Layers are key because you will be changing clothes several times during the day.
You also need to bring along a wide variety of lenses. Not only will this give you the option of using a long lens to capture far away shots, it will also allow you to use a shorter focal length like 50mm or 35mm to get close ups of your subject.
Lens Choices for Telephoto Mountain Photography
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Iceland – SONY ILCE-7RM2 – Focal Length 18mm – Aperture ƒ/18 – Shutter Speed 1.6s – ISO 100
When shooting mountains, you will find it useful to have a variety of focal lengths at your disposal. This will allow you to isolate different parts of the mountain and make sure you do not miss any important details.
When mountain climbers reach the summit of a peak, they don’t just stand there looking back at the view, they also look forward to the next peak or the valley that lies below. Telephoto lens choices for mountain photography can create a sense of forward movement, even if your subject is standing still.
+ A 200mm focal length will give you the ability to make your subjects appear much closer to you than they actually are.
+ If you use a 400mm lens, your subject will seem as though he is only a few feet from you. This makes your photo much more compelling to the viewer because it gives the illusion of scale.
If you want to go wider, you are going to have to get an extreme wide angle lens, like the 12-24mm. Not only does it let you include more of the scene in your frame, but it also helps to “soften” the harshness of the landscape. A 24mm lens is a good choice for most situations.
Use A Polarizing Filter
A polarizing filter is a filter you put over your lens that makes all colors seem to “polarize”.
A polarizing filter is a must-have for mountain photographers. It reduces glare from snow and ice, and makes distant objects – like the sky – more apparent.
Use it when you are shooting landscapes, and whenever you are unsure of the weather conditions. It will give you a sharper image, especially in low light situations.
Which Season Has The For Mountain Photography?
Alpe di Siusi, Italy – Canon EOS 5D Mark IV – Focal Length 40mm – Aperture ƒ/16 – Shutter Speed 1/200s – ISO 800
Mountain photography is a whole ‘nother ball game, isn’t it?
Sure, you can go out in the middle of the summer and get great light – but that light won’t be there for very long. You see, the sun is so high in the sky during the summer, it doesn’t have a chance to set until well after the mountains have gone into shadow.
So the short answer is, it doesn’t really matter much what season you choose to go mountain shooting, as long as you go during the time of year when the light is best.
However they can be very difficult to light well. It’s easy to overcast the tops of mountains and make them look dull and depressing. But sometimes, a little cloud cover can actually help lift your photos. It creates a soft, diffused light that is perfect for making everything look velvety soft and romantic.
If you’re going to shoot in overcast conditions, make sure you are using a slow shutter speed (like 1/4 second) so you will get some blur from the clouds themselves. This will add an interesting element to your photo, as if you had a soft focus filter over the top of it.
Great Techniques For Mountain Photography
Matterhorn Glacier, Zermatt, Suíça – Sony ILCE-6500 – Focal Length 35mm – Aperture ƒ/9 – Shutter Speed 1/640s – ISO 100
One of the secrets of mountain photography is to climb high enough so you can see over the tops of the mountains. This will give you a different perspective and allow you to photograph the valleys and lower lying areas in a new way.
Another technique is to find the hidden valley. Find a spot where the mountains meet the sky and you will see a notch or a gap between two peaks. Go there when the light is just right and you will find yourself in a little amphitheatre with a steep drop on three sides. It’s often here that you will find the most dramatic images. If you are lucky, you might even find a waterfall.
Some of the most successful mountain photographers I know never use a telephoto lens at all – instead, they use wide-angle or normal focal lengths, and they simply shoot the scene as though they were on the ground. Then, later, when they are viewing the photo in their computer, they crop in such a way that makes the mountain seem to recede into the distance. This is a great technique, but it does require a fair amount of practice. However, once you get the hang of it, you will find yourself shooting great photos even if the subject is just a couple of feet in front of you.
Learn to Focus Stack for Better Compositions
One of the easiest ways to make your photos more interesting is to learn how to use “focus stacking”. This is where you take several photos of the same subject, each one slightly different focus point, and then combine them into one image with the help of special software.
The results can be dramatic – I used to work on a farm near Bath, and we had some great mountain photography opportunities because the farm was close to the hills.
We would often set up our gear at the bottom of the hill and shoot upwards, all the way to the top of the mountain. Then we’d do it again, only this time, we’d start at the top of the mountain and work our way down.
By shooting in this way, we could create an image with a vertical “mountain range” with each individual photo being a little different focus point on that range.
Add Emotion To Mountain Photography
Sunnegga, Zermatt, Switzerland- Sony ILCE-7M2 – Focal Length 79mm – Aperture ƒ/16 – Shutter Speed 5s – ISO 100
Mountain photographers often struggle with the fact that mountains are so stark and barren… they can be rather boring.
However, what most people don’t realize is that mountains often have an emotional as well as physical presence. They can be a place of refuge, a fortress, a challenge, or simply a great big lump of rock in the middle of nowhere.
Look for opportunities to photograph your subject with an “emotional intensity” that makes the photo more powerful. Maybe you can find a way to get close to your subject so the mountains seem to loom over them. Or perhaps you can frame the shot so your subject is dwarfed by the surroundings.
Whatever the case, you should strive to add some element of emotion to every photo. It needn’t be overt. Subtle is often much more effective.
Originality In The Grand Landscape
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Sony ILCE-7M3 – Focal Length 210mm – Aperture ƒ/6.3 – Shutter Speed 1/2000s – ISO 160
I love this quote by Ansel Adams: “The essential element in great landscape photography is not technical ability, but rather, it is the ability to see and record what is really there.
What makes a great landscape photograph is the way it compels you to look at it differently. To see it with fresh eyes, as though you had never seen it before.
The very best photographs are those that surprise you and make you see something new – whether it’s an aspect of nature you were previously oblivious to, or a special quality in the subject that you hadn’t noticed before.
Look for ways to add unexpected elements to your images. You could do this by using a telephoto lens (which will compress the background) or by deliberately moving around your subject so it pops out from the scene. Try shooting from unusual angles or positions. Move closer or farther away from your subject. Shoot it at different times of day or night.
Bali, Indonesia – NIKON D7100 – Focal Length 14mm – Aperture ƒ/4 – Shutter Speed 1/60s – ISO 250
A mountain scene can be especially rich with photographic possibilities, but it can also be quite challenging. The most obvious problem is the wide variety of shapes and sizes of mountains. Another is the tendency for the eye to gravitate to the foreground and ignore the rest of the photo. Creative composition is one of the keys to making good photographs in any genre of photography.
The first step is to get as close as you can to your subject without actually getting in the way of the action. If you are photographing a race car driver, don’t stand next to him and take his picture. Instead, find a place from which you can take his picture without getting in his way. Perhaps you can get a close up of his hands on the steering wheel.
Look for ways to draw attention to what you want the viewer to look at, and then lead his eye to the interesting part of the picture. In the case of a mountain scene, your job is to lead the eye up the mountain to the interesting bits, which may include waterfalls, flowers, snow-capped peaks, or other aspects of the mountain that you find appealing.
Mountain photography is an art that has been around for centuries. In the past, many people would climb the mountains just for the purpose of taking photos. But now, many people do it for other reasons such as adventure, challenge, or for fame and fortune. Whatever the reason is, mountain photographers have the ability to capture some of the most breathtaking photos on earth.
If you want to learn more about mountain photography, we suggest that you read this article. We think that after reading this article, you will have a better understanding of mountain photography and you will be able to create more beautiful photographs.